Pine is Fine

Eating Pine

Nibbling on Pine

Tree eating is growing on me.  Last year, I developed an appreciation for a variety of edible tree buds, leaves, fruits, nuts and even saps, but harvesting the inner bark to make flour just didn’t tempt me.  Just not that hungry.I gave a copy of Linda’s great book, Eat the Trees, to a wild foodie friend, Taylor and she is the impetus for expanding my horizon beyond the easy pickins to the inner gifts of trees.

Pine is an amazing gift. Not only is the whole tree edible but it’s medicinal qualities are stellar. It is anti microbial, anti septic, an expectorant, high in Vitamin C… to name a few of it’s virtues. It was too cold to collect sap but that is on my ‘bucket list’. Though I have great respect for this tree I can’t say my stomach growls with anticipation of eating it.  It is considered a starvation food. The tea however is lovely and Pine needle popsicles are a tasty Summer treat. 🙂  The whole tree has edible and nutritious gifts: pine nuts, catkins, needles, twigs, inner bark, sap for it’s healing qualities…

*shopping for pine

We headed to the top of the mountain where there is a Pine forest and decided to select a branch to bring home and work with as needed.   Skipper joined us.
This branch looked particularly tasty.

This branch looked particularly tasty.

*Taylor cutting branch
Taylor, having worked for the conservation core in Arizona for two years, was a handy helper to have around. She finished off this limb in no time.  Skipper barked encouragement.
*Cutting bark
Beginning the process of cutting out the inner bark. It was not as easy as the books imply.  But then we found out that it was difficult because we were doing it wrong…
*Tori's knife
My friend, Tori, gifted me with a Swedish made Morah knife, which I carry with me almost always. I was or rather am afraid that this abuse may have harmed it in some way. Taylor assured me that this is what Morah knives were crafted for.  The inner bark NEVER peeled off in sweet curls (as the pictures on the net and in books promised) so we improvised and made horizontal gashes and then sledgehammered out chunks a bit at a time.

Though the smell of Pine was heavy in the air I am afraid that we would have starved if it were up to our ability to really ‘bring home the bacon’. My mentor, Linda Runyon, used to whip up a meal of Pine in no time. She would have laughed at us but I’m sure she would be proud that we at least attempted this. I’ll send her pics!

*Taylor dragging pine branch
Heading back to the truck with our Pine branch.  The freezing temps didn’t phase us.  Harvesting that tiny bit of Pine burned up a few calories.
*in the truck
Using her keen sense of leverage and balance (highly tuned as an acroyoga instructor) Taylor flipped the heavy Pine branch into my trusty truck bed for the trip home.
*stripping needles
Taylor stripped  the fresh needles off of our branch to make balsamic vinegar, Pine medicine and Pine honey, we also enjoyed some steaming mugs of Pine needle tea. 🙂
*the wrong stuff
After all that work, this is all we ended up with. Dehydrating the Pine bark my kitchen smelled like a lumber mill. With the moisture now sucked out of it I bagged it up till I grind it into flour and bake my first ever Pine bark bread. Which I’m sure with enough butter and wild jam on it it will taste passable.
*cutting up needles
Pine needles are delicious IF you don’t eat them by themselves. I’ve determined that eating Pine needles is perhaps similar to chewing on broom bristles. I do love them infused in a tea or vinegar or honey or on a hot Summer day as popsicles!Pine needle popsicles
Experiment number 2. My wild friend, Heather Pier, has been successfully consuming Pine cambium in a plethora of tasty nutritious ways which is a far cry from Taylor’s and my Pine lumber that we harvested last time. With a bit of her help Taylor and I managed to figure out what the cambium is, and harvested enough to feed a small gerbil or two.  She sent us this helpful link and these words of wisdom.

Holly, I did take some pics, but you really can’t tell much. But I did find this great video that shows it really well (if you can get past the music). The big thing that I work at is the change in textures between the bark, the cambium and the inner hard wood. The cambium is soft and slippery. But this video is almost exactly what happened with my pines, although I used a draw knife. Also, he boils it, which I thought was just nasty.

Sacki-Survival Part 7 – Cambium as survival food

So back to the Pine forest to get just the cambium layer. There is something rather mysterious about a Pine forest…. the wind sounds strangely muffled…different…and the strong Pine odor carries me miles and years away to Pine forests of my past. Pine cones for wild crafts littered the crunchy pine needle floor… (note to self).   Taylor is a determined soul and worked hard to harvest cambium from this tree. Our observations: it’s preferable to harvest fresh cambium from a newly fallen limb. So we went home and carved up the ‘yard art Pine branch’ that we had carted home last time. It was a piece of cake, sort of.
*second attempt at inner bark
*inner bark

So here is the skinny…. the pine INNER bark that we gouged out last time is not tasty. It is like eating a pine board from the hardware store, but the middle layer is the live cambium found JUST under the protective outer bark. This is moist and it tastes like Pine nuts (which I love). I dehydrated a bunch of this and can’t wait to make it into flour.  Heather, just sent me her Pine flour donut recipe and I will be experimenting soon.

*the contrast
To the left is the inner Pine lumber (not edible) but useful for starting fires,  in the middle is the edible Pine cambium, the right is the outer bark.
Dehydrating the cambium strips for Pine flour. It actually makes really decent chewing gum as is. 🙂
Our search for Pine sap was futile though….
Taylor also made her first infused oils and tinctures, using Black Birch and Cottowood buds for the oils, Willow and Black Birch with Scotch whiskey or potato vodka. Pine twigs are in the basket to the right in groups of 12 for wild Popsicle sticks. 🙂
We ground up dried Pine needles (using a coffee grinder) into Pine flour and used that a a portion of the flour ingredient for our Double Pine Salvodoran Quesidillas.  Recipe shared by wild woman Butter Wilde from Hunger and Thirst for Life.
*making pine muffins
Taylor ground the dried Pine needles into powder using my ‘coffee’ grinder that I never use for coffee. Worked well. She added this to the batter to get that Pine zing. Here she is topping the muffins with Pine nuts.
*Double Pine Salvadorean Quesadillas

I’ll be serving Triple Pine muffins  made with the ground Pine cambium flour at my next wild food class.  I know it will be a huge hit!


  1. Linda Runyon says:

    Wonderful blog, Holly……the cambium is NOT so slippery until the warmth hits the air, late spring…..Truely very soft and EASY to peel out in the warm spring….Branches are very much easier then the big trunk…
    ….I actually brought bows into the cabin and warmed them up for easy peel out of the cambium, which needs heat to flow the sap….hope this helps! I can taste the muffins! George Washington didn’t do it any better, I am sure! love, Linda Runyon

  2. Charles says:

    Really appreciate the two of you sticking with this adventure. Hope the flour does turn out. I get great inspiration from your “taking a swing at it!”
    This is encouraging in more ways than just eating trees. Also appreciate Taylor inspiring you!
    Thanks so much

    • Taylor is coming over tomorrow to pack an herbal first aid kit for her 2,300 mile trek on the Pacific Coast Trail! I am serving her Pine cambium donuts! I’ll take pictures so you can salivate and enjoy them vicariously!

  3. Umm, why are you maimig those trees in order to feed your silly hunger? I imagine it’s not too good for the pine tree to have a hole carved in it. Retardation to the fullest!

    • Thanks for your concern, it is a good point to bring up. Wildcrafting needs to be sustainable and thoughtful for lots of reasons. In harvesting Pine bark, or any tree bark it is very important not to gird around the entire circumference of the trunk or it will kill the tree. After experimenting with our feeble attempts to harvest from the trunk itself we ended up using the branch that we chopped off the first time we went ‘pining’. The cambium layer is much easier to get from under the outer bark from a branch that is situated where it is easy to peel than from the trunk of a Pine standing out in the snow and freezing temps. Also Linda Runyon, told me that the best time to harvest Pine is in the early Spring when temps have warmed up and the sap is running. This is also a great time to collect sap for numerous purposes.

  4. Pine is fine indeed and I truly love your wording – tapping the syrup is on your bucket list! Pine and birch are my two favourite trees!

    As an FYI, I have university study (its in my pile of research somewhere right now) that claims vitamin C is at its highest in the pine needles in the winter months!

    Keep up the great work you are doing Holly!

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  6. Derrick Tyson says:

    Great post! I have a question or two:

    As for the cambium (inner bark), after taking this from the tree, in strips or whatever, can this be grounded down to a powder and put into empty gel capsules to be consumed like supplements? I’m assuming that one can do this, and that it would hold a lot of benefits as it does when consuming in other ways. How wrong am I?

    Another question:

    After taking the inner bark from the tree, I just gathered, took it inside and let it dry in the house on a desk, and it’s now super dry. Does the dryness of it take away from the nutritional value somehow? I’ve seen people boil it, and eat it like chips, etc., but I was wondering what you thought?

    After the inner bark has dried, what would you recommend for storing it? Also: if I’ve ground it into power-form and decide not to (or unable to) put into gelatin capsules for later consuming (haven’t gotten them yet), what would you recommend storing it in, or does it matter? A glass jar or something? That being IF it’s a good thing to actually grind it down to a powder and consume, which I’m assuming is okay?

    Any thoughts, feedback, information and whatever would be appreciated whenever time permits itself!

    Thank you!

    • Hi Derrick,
      I really don’t know the answer to your question. I have not experimented much with the pine inner bark since this time I wrote about it 😉 In general though when an herb is powdered it loses some of it’s power. I like to keep things in chunks dried out and then powder as needed in my food processor (vita mixer…) And always store dried things in a glass mason jar, never plastic.
      Sometimes I will dry herbs in paper bags in my attic to keep them clean but also provide the air to help the drying process.
      There is so much out there that is soooooo nutritious and delicious that Pine bark is not my first go to. It’s just nice to know that it is edible and nutritious if ever I were that hungry! A pine forest is also a very very inexhaustible food source.
      Sorry if this is not a satisfactory answer. You may wish to check with wild foodies that specialize and not just experiment with Pine.

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